WHITEHOUSE, TX (KLTV) - When Whitehouse Fire Chief Madison Johnson thought first responders in the area could use some support, he decided to reach out to the community.
"In light of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, East Texas is not exempt from these kinds of disasters," says Chief Johnson. "Communities all over the country have these groups of volunteers that go through extensive training, and they assemble and they are prepared to respond in their community when their community is in need."
These groups are called Community Emergency Response Teams, a part of a federal program under FEMA, and after the first two interest meetings, Johnson says about 20 Whitehouse residents have already answered the call.
"My wife Maria and I will both be joining," says CERT recruit and Whitehouse Rec Center Director Anthony Johnson. "It's just another way to help the community and to do whatever it takes to help people in need."
Longview has utilized the program since 2009, but the Whitehouse CERT will be the first in Smith County. CERT members will help in emergency situations such as natural disasters and support at the scene of an accident.
"They have training like first aid, CPR, and training in search and rescue," says Chief Johnson. "It's really an organized effort for a community taking care of their own."
The city will use a Code Red Alert system to notify CERT members when assistance is needed via phone, text, and email. The training process will take six to eight months, but CERT members are already eager to get that first call.
"It's not just search and rescue," says Anthony Johnson. "It's not just lifting heavy things, there's so many other things that you can do. I think every community should have one."
The program will be funded using federal grants.